Bongani Zungu is one of the latest South African players to join a French club. Photo: BackpagePix

PRAIA, Cape Verde – Bongani Zungu is sitting at the Pestana Tropico Hotel reception foyer reading congratulatory messages from all over the world after sealing a move to French Ligue 1 side Amiens SC from Portugal’s Vitoria Guimaraes.

The most real of those is a tweet from Bafana Bafana teammate Keagan Dolly, who is seated next to him while social media is in a frenzy, that reads: “Congratulations my friend, meet you in the tunnel”.

Dolly plays for Montpellier in the same division.

Although Zungu is excited to have made the switch to a league that probably enjoys a bit more prestige, as well as the world’s most expensive player in Neymar at Paris Saint-Germain, the 24-year-old from Duduza knows he has to do it all over again having spent just a single season in Portugal, taking time to break into the starting line-up.

“I am ready for the challenge,” says Zungu, who was part of the Bafana team that faced Cape Verde in a 2018 World Cup qualifier on Friday night.

“They wouldn’t have gone through the trouble of signing me on deadline day if they were planning on not using me. The club showed a real interest in getting me to France and I felt I couldn’t say no.

“Initially I felt maybe I am moving at a fast pace, spending a season in Portugal and then going off to France, but that is life, that is football.

“These things move quickly. I am strong, and I will have to adjust to another different environment and playing style.

“It obviously came unexpectedly to a certain degree, but I think it is good for my profile. Maybe people don’t know the club I am going to so much, but their objectives and ambitions are very clear to me.”

Zungu arrived at Guimaraes injured and overweight a little over a year ago, and it was only in January that he turned heads with his performances once he was fully fit.

That earning him a place back in the national team after he’d dropped down the pecking order in midfield.

There is a feeling, even though it is from a minority, that he is throwing all that hard work away. “Part of me wanted to stay in Portugal,” he says.

“The club will be playing in the Europa League this year and I would have loved to show my ability on that stage.

“But I went to Guimaraes knowing they are a selling club, and if you perform, you will possibly move on to a bigger club or league.

“There was interest from Benfica, but for reasons I cannot reveal, the club didn’t accept that offer. I don’t have regrets. I went with my heart and I feel good about it.”

His arrival in a new country will have a slight twist this time around – Bafana teammates Dolly, Lebogang Phiri at Guingamp and Stade Rennais’ Kermit Erasmus will all be there to help him adjust to his new surroundings.

“I get to play against my friend Keagan, who is happy for me. It helps to be in touch with people who you know and play with in the national team,” says Zungu.

“I have watched a couple of games in the French Ligue and I know that in Portugal, we were a bit more physical than in France. The pace was a lot faster, but in France they are a lot more patient.

“I think I will adjust. I will do my best.’

Saturday Star

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